In his role as Coordinator of the Greater Dalton Urban Planning Organization (MPO), Jake Bearden helps shape the future of Whitfield and Murray counties.
It’s one of the many hats he wears in Whitfield County, and his performance on the job has won him the respect of many co-workers, including Jan Garland.
“It has been a privileged pleasure to work with Jake in his many roles in the county first as transit dispatcher, and later as storm water plan reviewer and MPO coordinator,” Garland said in support of his nomination as County Employee of the Month for April. “I can think of no other person more deserving of this award than Jake, and I am honored to have the opportunity to share my experience working with such an exemplary employee.”
According to Garland, Bearden attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and earned his engineering degree several years ago, while working in the county full time.
Garland, who began working closely with Bearden when COVID-19 began affecting county standard operating procedures and county work performance, said.
“During that two-year period, Jake has been invaluable in coordinating the online video meeting for the zoning/planning department,” Garland said. “We would never have been as successful as we were during that time without Jake’s patience and expertise.”
Most recently, the two worked together daily to improve customer service in their zoning/planning department.
“Without fail, he takes on additional responsibilities outside his usual workload and goes above and beyond to ensure issues are addressed quickly and professionally,” she said.
Garland said she was confident that “anyone who has interacted with Jake in a professional capacity will echo my recommendation” and that we are “really lucky to have him on our county team to help build a positive and supportive environment for our county leaders and others.”
Carol Roberts, the county grants coordinator, said Bearden was the “driving force” behind Whitfield County’s application for a RAISE transfer grant.
“We won’t know the outcome of the scholarship until August, but it was a huge step for us to apply,” she said.
Bearden said it’s a “tremendous help” to Roberts and “really takes the lead” in the county’s pursuit of other transportation-related grants.
“I don’t have the knowledge or skills to decipher these grant requirements, but he does,” she said. “And even though he has a lot of other responsibilities, he jumped in to help me. He is a great example of professionalism and teamwork.”
Valeria Molina, of Human Resources, described Bearden as an “generally great employee” in the county.
“Even though he works in engineering, he never refuses to help outside of his department,” Molina said. “He has helped with many of the projects I have reached out to him for. Whether it is through social media, HR or public outreach, Jake manages his time to get the job done.”
To give locals more knowledge about his character, Bearden filled out the survey below.
Job title: Coordinator of the Greater Dalton Urban Planning Organization.
My current role as a county employee: I am responsible for coordinating the completion of projects, activities and grant reports associated with the Greater Dalton Planning District (Whitfield and Murray Counties), and for providing long- and short-term strategies for comprehensive, collaborative, and ongoing community transportation planning. Also, I am part of the engineering department plan review team and assist the district engineer with local capital projects.
What do you love most about your department, team, or role? I enjoy the challenge. There are times when projects are faced with unique circumstances, and the engineering department is tasked with helping the development move forward, while conserving our natural resources and ensuring that the interests of our citizens are protected.
The most successful project you and your team have completed? The goal of each project is to strengthen our thriving community, so that each project is as successful as the last. Our region enjoys an exceptional quality of life and growing economic opportunities. Whether it is a large company or someone looking to build a home in the area, we want to be the supplier that facilitates the success of the project.
What advice would you give someone new starting out on your team? Working in government, at any level, is difficult because you are required to work within the confines of laws and regulations. Sometimes this makes making decisions difficult, so always meet people where they are with kindness.
Whitfield County Favorite Restaurant or Activity: I can eat a hot plate of fajitas anytime, so just point me to any of our local Mexican fare.
You might be surprised to learn that I: love of cooking. I’m terrible at it, but I enjoy trying new things.
Anything else you’d like to share: “In the same way, let your light shine before others…” – Matthew 5:16a